Tag Archives: gender dysphoria

Father to Son

Father to Son

This letter was written by an anonymous father of a teenager struggling with sexual identity issues.  The letter was written without the intention of giving it to the boy, but perhaps just because the situation provided a reason to get these thoughts out.

Son,

We need to have a heart to heart talk.  The most important thing I need to tell you is that I love you.  Very, very much.  There is absolutely nothing that could ever make me stop loving you.  I am your dad and you are my son; forever.

In the world of psychology, they say a person is formed by nature and nurture.  Nature, naturally, refers to that with which we were born.  Our genetic makeup, predispositions and internal programing.  Nurture refers to our environment.  The external factors.  Our experiences; parents and family; environment; where we’ve lived and when we lived there.  To what degree nature and nurture affect us is an ongoing discussion.  Some psychologists believe nature is a stronger factor than nurture.  Others say the opposite.  I used to think it was stronger on the nurture side.  Over the years I have come to believe that nature plays the bigger part.

You remind me so much of myself at your age.  We each have lived in very different times, and the environments in which we experienced our childhoods are very different from each other.  I want you to realize how much I can relate to you; the things you are experiencing.  I am going to tell you a few things about myself here.  Some of this you may already know.  Some, maybe not.  If I go on about something I have already told you about, please be considerate and take it in anyway.

When I was about your age I was a bit of a mess.  With divorced alcoholic parents, the nurture part was not so hot.  My older brother, who had to deal with the same environment as me, was completely different from me socially.  He had a lot of friends and was very popular in school.  I did not have many friends and struggled socially.  I was smaller than most kids my age and was bullied.  I was very sensitive and hurt inside most of the time.  I couldn’t understand why nobody liked me and so many tortured me.

In the late 1960’s and early 70’s views on sexual identity were different than they are today.  Nowadays, society is much more accepting of alternative sexual identities and lifestyles than it was then.  There are still a lot of people around that have hatred and bias toward people different from themselves, but not nearly as bad as it was then.  When I was your age, being different was a death sentence.  For the most part the only people who associated with homosexuals were other homosexuals, and their lives were literally in danger.

I recall when I was in 7th or 8th grade I was walking down the hall at school and a girl I had a crush on was coming toward me.  I bravely made eye contact with her and smiled.  Her face contorted as if she had just taken a bite of something rotten and called me a “Femme!”  That was a label that carried an awful stigma.  It was a derogatory term used to deride boys with a feminine nature.  To be brandished a femme was to be cast out socially.  I was traumatized.

I believe the “femme” of my childhood days would in today’s world be called “transgender.”  If in my childhood I had lived in the same environment of today I probably would have accepted being that.  It wouldn’t have been hard to find people who accepted me.  No one accepted me at that age, and that hurt.  I was confused.  I was grappling with my self-image.  I wondered if I was a homosexual.  I remember thinking that maybe the reason I was feminine was because I was really a girl living in the body of a boy.

Where I lived we didn’t have Middle School.  Junior High School was 7th, 8th and 9th grade, and High School was 10th, 11th and 12th grade.  My summer after 9th grade, between Junior High and High School, my mother told me she was selling the house and we were moving to an apartment she had found close to where she worked.  It meant moving to a new school district.  I would enter High School not knowing anyone.  My mother thought I would be upset about moving away from all my friends.  She didn’t know that I didn’t have any friends.  I couldn’t wait to move.  This was my big chance to reset my image; start my life over.

I approached High School very carefully.  I chose a new group of friends and was successful at resurrecting my image.  I got all screwed up in different ways.  I began drinking and doing drugs.  But, that’s another story.

In 1976, in college, I took a class called The Psychology of Sex.  I wrote a paper in which I posited a theory about human sexuality.  I remember I got an A.  To summarize, gender is a given.  Only two options: male or female.  However, there are two inherent sexual proclivities, that are not necessarily affected by gender, that have a profound effect on one’s sexuality.

One proclivity is between Masculinity and Femininity.  To some degree each of us have a masculine and a feminine nature.  For example, a person might be 80% feminine and 20% masculine.  A man could be very feminine in nature, a woman might be very masculine, and vice versa.

The other proclivity is between heterosexuality and homosexuality.  For whatever reason, no matter the cause (which is a huge issue in itself) people are to some degree sexually attracted to either the same or opposite gender as oneself.

These two proclivities do not necessarily cause or correlate with each other, or with gender.  Everyone is either male or female, and falls somewhere on the lines for each of the above.  A predominantly masculine man or woman can be either heterosexual or homosexual.  Same for a feminine man or woman.

What does all this really mean?  Should we conclude that because we all have a proclivity to one or another that we have a right to behave according to our proclivities?  When I was young homosexuality was generally considered to be a psychological disorder, and a feminine boy just needed to “man up.”  Now that seems a bit harsh, doesn’t it?  What is the norm?  Are we not all disordered?  Regardless of proclivity, are we doing the right thing by accepting homosexual behavior as normal?  Would it be in his best interest to encourage a feminine boy to go ahead and “be a girl?”

Saint Pope John Paul the Great taught through his work titled Theology of the Body that God created us in His image; man and woman, He created us.  God gave us the wonderful gift of sex for marriage.  Marriage is Sacred.  A healthy sexual relationship is wonderful, but any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage is sin.  I’m not looking down on people for their sins.  When it comes to human sexuality, we are all disordered.  We are all sinners and require God’s grace for forgiveness.  It’s high on my list every time I approach the confessional.

Atheism and agnosticism are on the rise.  Ironic isn’t it, that this coincides with a growing general acceptance of alternative sexual identities and lifestyles.  It’s not hard to understand why someone who wishes to practice an alternative sexual lifestyle would also decide to write God out of the picture.  Church teachings just don’t jive with our preferences.

No one is an atheist or agnostic because they reasoned it out.  People choose to be an atheist or agnostic because they don’t want to believe in God.  To acknowledge the existence of God would be to surrender personal sovereignty and accept that there is such a thing as morality.

We need to accept ourselves for what we are; for how God made us and what His plans are for us.  A feminine boy should not be encouraged to be something he isn’t.  He is not a girl.  He is a boy.  A feminine boy, yes, but a boy none the less.  A person with same sex attraction cannot hope to realize their desires pursuing disordered sinful behavior.  We all are called by God, our creator, to a unique vocation.  Rising above and conquering our disordered desires brings us closer to our destiny; closer to our Creator, who is Love.  Those with more challenging disorders have a higher calling, perhaps a life of celibacy.  I certainly isn’t easy, but doing things God’s way is the best way.

Son, because you are not yet a legal adult and ready to move out on your own, you must live with us, your parents.  We are family.  Your mom and I are responsible for you.  So as your parents we too must draw the lines somewhere.  There must be rules.  We will need to talk these things through.  We will listen to you, but you will need to accept our authority.  We don’t make rules because we want to hurt you.  We make rules because we love you.

I will always love you.

Love,

Dad